Time to shape up for skiing

Posted: Friday, October 13, 2000

Editor's note: This is the first in a six-part series that will run each Friday on the Clarion's Outdoors page. The series is designed to give beginners or novices the basics necessary to cross-country ski this winter, but the information will be useful to all levels of skiers.

Face it. For the better part of the next five months, the Kenai Peninsula will be covered with snow.

This leaves residents with three options: 1- Be miserable; 2- Move; 3- Figure out a way to enjoy the snow.

Skyview Assistant Principal Allan Miller, a former coach with the U.S. Biathlon Team and Skyview's ski team, said the time to act is now for those who plan on using skis to make this winter go a little easier.

"We're pretty good here at having fun in the summer. We've got that figured out," Miller said. "Winter will go by a lot quicker if you start looking at snow as fun stuff.

"It won't be a disappointment every time it's in the five-day forecast."

The month of October is crucial for those hoping to get on skis this winter, whether they're people who have never skied before or people who have skied since they could walk.

For those who've always wanted to ski or been too busy to stay active in the summer, Miller said it's time to get the body moving again.

He said something as simple as going for a 30-minute walk three times a week can be an invaluable step toward being able to ski in the winter. Other options for getting the aerobic system ready for skiing include activities such as biking or skating.

Make no mistake about it. Skiing, due to the fact that it's done when it's cold and done on something slippery and wet, can be a miserable experience. The danger to beginners or those who have spent the summer sitting around is that one bad experience will scare them off for the rest of the winter.

"That first ski of the year has never been easy," Miller said. "The first time you go out, you can fall, you can get wet, your feet can get cold.

"Do things that are going to make that first ski of the year easy on the body."

Taking a 30-minute walk every day also is important from a time-management standpoint.

"The next month, you want to get in the habit of setting aside time for exercise," Miller said. "If you can't set aside 30 minutes now, why would you be able to once it's cold and snowing outside?"

Part of the problem with athletics is it awards the fastest and strongest. With that cultural facet in place, some are embarrassed to walk for 30 minutes while runners and bikers whiz by.

"But most of us aren't training for the Olympics or trying to make the high school team," Miller said. "We have a family and a job and it's great if we can exercise 30 minutes a day."

Being fit, even if you're not the fastest or strongest, is an accomplishment in itself.

"It's a difference I feel in attitude, energy and my outlook," Miller said. "I can tell the days when I run and the days when I sit at my desk and have soda and popcorn instead."

With this in mind, Miller cautioned against making up for months or years of inactivity with one torturous workout fit for Nina Kemppel.

"Obviously, if you're getting ready to ski, jogging does more good than walking," Miller said. "But for a lot of us, if we go for a 30-minute jog we'll be too sore to do anything for the next week."

On the other hand, if a 30-minute jog is an aerobic piece of cake, Miller said, starting to throw some upper body exercises into the mix will be helpful.

Some of these exercises include sit-ups, push-ups or chair dips. To get in position for a chair dip, sit normally on a chair. Place hands on the front edge of the chair just outside the legs and use the hands to let your butt slide off the front edge of the chair. Extend your legs out in front of you.

To do the actual chair dip, bend the arms to lower and raise the torso.

"I can remember going out for my first ski of the season after running all summer and thinking, 'Boy, am I out of shape,'" Miller said. "It's just that your upper body gets out of shape.

"Suddenly, it's asking for blood and oxygen, and the body doesn't know how to deliver it."

Another way to get the upper body ready is to take a month membership at a health club and use weight machines working the triceps, biceps, shoulders, stomach and back. Since the object isn't to add bulk, skiers should lift a couple times a week and select weights they can lift about 12 consecutive times.

One other benefit of the health club is it gets skiers through the month of October, which offers a mix of winter and fall that is often cold, wet and tough to exercise in.

"If you want to be fit, you have to get through this time of year," Miller said. "There is no easy way. There can be nice days this time of year. If it's pouring down rain, get the office work done and shoot for a run tomorrow.

"Those who exercise hard, if they can get through October, they know there's five months for them to enjoy the snow."

Next Friday: Freestyle or classical? Stephanie Kind, who has taught many to ski as the cross-country ski coach at Kenai Central High School, will explain the basics of the techniques and give beginners tips as to which technique would be best to try first.

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